Deutsche Bank Comes Clean

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NEW YORK: The haunting of corporate Germany continues. Deutsche Bank AG, trying to clear the way for its pending $10.1 billion swallowing of U.S. giant Bankers Trust, disclosed Thursday that it helped finance the building of Auschwitz by providing loans to the contractors that built the infamous Nazi death camp. It'll cost them: the company hastily set up a weekend meeting with the American Jewish Congress, which is demanding reparations be paid to Holocaust victims. If unsatisfied, the AJC threatens to use its considerable weight in Washington to try to block the merger.

Despite generous merger terms that priced Bankers Trust stock at $93, the Deutsche Bank's stock has languished in the low eighties for months on persistent fears that just such a Nazi connection would surface and queer the deal. The bank hopes that the candid and voluntary disclosures of its wartime loans - not just to the camp's builders but to a company that made incineration units, and to another whose subsidiary made the Zyklon B gas used in the camp - will score points with the AJC and put its embarrassing past behind it once and for all. As German companies become more and more aggressive about foreign mergers, their government has the same idea. German officials will attend this weekend's meeting to discuss with the AJC an umbrella payment that they hope will settle Nazi Germany's 50-year-old debt to the world and let the economic powerhouse shop the global marketplace on its own terms.